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Means of Ascent (The Years of Lyndon Johnson) Paperback – March 6, 1991
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"Brilliant. No brief review does justice to the drama of the story Caro is telling, which is nothing less than how present-day politics was born." --Henry F. Graff, Professor of History, Columbia University
"Riveting . . . Explosive . . . Readers are in for a white-knuckle, hair-raising tale that could have ended in any of a dozen ways, with L.B.J. in the White House the longest shot of all. This is good history. Caro's treatment achieves poetic intensity." --Paul Gray, Time
"Caro has a unique place among American political biographers. He has become, in many ways, the standard by which his fellows are measured. Caro's diligence [and] ambition are phenomenal . . . A remarkable story . . . Epic." --Mark Feeney, Boston Sunday Globe
"Immensely engaging . . . Caro is an indefatigable investigative reporter and a skillful historian who can make the most abstract material come vibrantly to life. [He has a] marvelous ability to tell a story . . . His analysis of how power is used---to build highways and dams, to win elections, to get rich---is masterly." --Ronald Steel, New York Times Book Review
"Caro has changed the art of political biography." --Nicholas von Hoffman
"A spellbinding, hypnotic journey into the political life and times of Lyndon Johnson. Riveting drama." --Jim Finley, Los Angeles Times
"The most compelling study of American political power and corruption since Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men.... It is nothing less than a political epic, the definitive account of a watershed election, rich with all of the intrigue and drama that have become the stuff of legend. [It has] the suspense of a political thriller." --Steve Neal, Fort Worth Star Telegram
"Magnificent . . . Thunder and lightning rip through Mr. Caro's viscerally compelling work." --Thomas W. Hazlett, The Wall Street Journal
"His research is dazzlingly exhaustive, his gripping story is enhanced by excellent writing, and his findings [seem] largely irrefutable. No one has done a better job of researching [the 1948 race] than Mr. Caro. He has produced a portrait not only of Lyndon Johnson, but also of the politics and values of mid-century America." --Philip Seib, Dallas Morning News
"Robert Caro gives us an LBJ who was human and then some, and what's enthralling is how this lucid, fascinating book keeps forcing us to confront the extreme contradictions of what (on good days) we call human nature. It's a testament to Robert Caro's skill that we find it so difficult to get a firm moral fix on Johnson. Caro is that rare biographer who seems intrigued by his subject but happily free from the urge to either heroicize, psychologize—or excoriate and punish." --Francine Prose, 7 Days
"Means of Ascent is a political biography, a detective story, a western and a character study. Above all, it is a richly textured, multilayered chronicle of a fundamental social and political change and how this change highlighted elements of Mr. Johnson's character: his powerful needs, tremendous ambition and particular genius." --Robert A. Kronley, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
"One can trust every detail. The sagaciousness and discretion of Caro's investigations are obvious from the start. The story of that election has all the excitement of a murder mystery in which the culprit is known, but the question is whether justice will triumph. Caro tells it with the same thriller instinct as the old novelists, yet with the passion for accuracy of the most exacting detective." --Denis Wadley, Minneapolis/St. Paul Star Tribune
"A great book, and I believe the completed biography will be the great book about American politics in the twentieth century. The story of the '48 election is remarkable, unique. If it weren't a cliche, I'd say it has Tolstoyan epic grandeur." --Robert K. Massie
"Caro's writing summons a reviewer's cliches—gripping, compelling, absorbing, irresistible . . . unputdownable. The sentences sparkle. The details pile up in a mountain of evidence . . . Caro has at last set the record straight." --Richard Marius, Harvard Magazine
"A spellbinding political thriller . . . riveting." --Arthur Salm, San Diego Tribune
"Extraordinary and brilliant . . . Devastatingly persuasive . . . Caro's prodigious research, and his discovery of original sources ignored by other biographers, proves beyond doubt that much of what Johnson said about these years was false . . . The spadework combined with Caro's passion makes for drama more riveting than any novel." --Mark A. Gamin, Cleveland Plain Dealer
"We who are alive today are privileged to be present at the creation of what, when it is completed, may rank as the most riveting and disturbing American political biography of this century . . . Magnificently written." --Theodore M. O'Leary, Kansas City Star
"Caro is the premier biographer of our time." --Bernard D. Nossiter, The Progressive
"No one understands Lyndon Baines Johnson without reading Robert A. Caro." --James F. Vesely, Sacramento Union
Top Customer Reviews
Aside from the significance of the year, I would like to emphasize what a truly exciting read this volume is. I was utterly enthralled to read about what unfolded next in the battle for the democratic candidacy for Texas' senatorial seat. This in spite of the fact that everyone reading the book already knows the outcome. Many have said that this is a hatchet job on LBJ. While this is not a positive portrait of LBJ as a moral figure, it praises him highly as a calculating politician--possibly one of the greatest of all times. The other thing to remember is that Caro is highlighting an election in 1940s Texas, which has always been notorious for corruption in politics (witness the cartoonish and stranger-than-fiction Pappy O'Daniel). The difference in this case was that Coke Stevenson was not as willing to accept that corruption as LBJ was.Read more ›
Many have criticized Caro (John Connelly most vociferously) for being overly critical of Johnson. I share this concern and feel he sometimes bends over backwards to "stick it to" Johnson. Caro has said repeatedly that he will deal with LBJ's Presidency with a more charitible outlook and this is to be hoped.
I am an unabashed fan of Lyndon Johnson and this will stand as the definitive biography of him for many years. Though it's caustic and critical, it's so beautifully written you can read it again and again. A masterpiece of biography.
This book is a great introducation to 20th Century Texas politics. The first few chapters hardly mention LBJ as Caro goes back to LBJ's father and discusses his life. For those of you that have read this book and the 1987 sequel, Means of Ascent, you may be wondering why the third volume covering the 1960s hasn't been written. I have it on good authority that the entire LBJ clan -- family, friends, and close advisors -- have made it clear to Caro that he is unwelcome around them. Hatchet job, or sour grapes because of the truth? Well, read the book and find out. But my guess is that Caro's terrific sources have simply dried up, and he isn't going to put his name on something where the quality is less than this book. Unfortunately for him, that might be near impossible.
One more thing to the quality of this book: there are about a dozen other LBJ books out there ranging from good to just plain bad. Every one of them without exception use this book as a source.
UPDATE: I am extremely happy to be wrong with my guess about Caro's sources drying up. I am looking forward to reading Master of the Senate.
However, Caro's unsparing portrait of LBJ as a power-obsessed liar and bully who would stop at nothing to succeed greatly offended many of LBJ's associates whom Caro had interviewed, as well as liberal historians who cherished Johnson's activism on Civil Rights and other liberal causes (and who conveniently wanted to forget Johnson's record in Vietnam and elsewhere).Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Caro had an ax to grind. Caro clumsily manipulates facts and in the process, his credibility is damaged. Read morePublished 6 days ago by Nagilam
As a scholar of Presidential History I loved this book. His books packed with information on his subject. Read morePublished 15 days ago by Amazon Customer
It's like being a fly on the wall watching the chicanery of the political process. I'll never forget about ballot box 13.Published 17 days ago by Deborah Lee
I understand not only US politics but human beings better than I did. Pretty appalling at times but engrossing always.Published 1 month ago by sarah
Caro presents a total view of Johnson's early life. In many political biographies the back-story of childhood is ignored. Read morePublished 1 month ago by RICHARD LA
Lyndon Johnson was a relentlessly ambitious megalomaniac, a basically horrible person who used people and threw them away, and was as corrupt as any major politician in US history. Read morePublished 1 month ago by J Bruce Lindeman
LBJ will probably remain a mystery, but this book is one part of three that goes a long way toward telling who Lyndon B. Johnson was. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Good book. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer